At first thought, the benefits of captioning may not seem so obvious.
But UK charity Turn On The Subtitles says turning on closed captions when a child watches TV doubles their chances of becoming a good reader.
And for adult learners with varying degrees of accessibility, captioning offers a host of benefits that speeds up learning outcomes.
In this blog post, we’ll reveal some of the most compelling reasons for adding captions to learning materials.
What Are the Benefits of Captioning?
So what are the real benefits of captioning? Here are some of the most important reasons you’ll want to know.
Captions Boost Comprehension
Captions are same-language written translations. And over 100 studies say adding captions to video improves viewers’ understanding of what they see.
But one way that adding captions helps with comprehension and retention is by tapping into a dual approach to word coding. As highlighted in a study by the University of Southampton, and supported by the British Council, Paivio’s dual-coding theory (1971) suggests the brain places verbal and non-verbal information into two separate regions.
So when students need to understand a word in a concrete way, if they receive both audio and visual clues it will code a word into both regions of the brain. And this dual approach to comprehension can facilitate an increase in learners’ understanding and retention of information.
Captions Improve Literacy Levels
The UK government’s ‘Levelling Up’ scheme aims to get 90% of children at the expected standards in reading, writing and maths by 2030.
And Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust Jonathan Douglas stands behind it. But Mr Douglas also believes children need a holistic approach to achieve high levels of literacy:
“The pandemic means we are facing an unprecedented national literacy challenge, exacerbating the challenge of levelling up, that can only be addressed by a holistic approach involving charities, businesses and communities working hand in hand with schools and teachers.”Jonathan Douglas CBE
In a TES report on the benefits of captioning, Mr Douglas also supported global evidence from the US, India and UK that same-language subtitles, or captions, can improve literacy skills:
“I would absolutely support automatic same-language subtitling. This is not replacing or taking away anything from what teachers do – this would be a supplemental activity.”Jonathan Douglas CBE
Teachers, parents and family members can all encourage improved literacy by turning on subtitles and getting more children to read while they watch.
Captions Help ESOL Learners
One of the key benefits of captioning is the way it boosts comprehension of difficult to learn words for ESOL learners.
Professors from the University of Nottingham and the University of Western Ontario tested comprehension scores with Japanese speaking students by adding captions to an English-speaking TV programme.
They discovered that comprehension scores were higher in those who watched captioned episodes, but also much higher in 3 out of the 10 episodes. And these were the most difficult to understand.
The results of their study suggest captions have a significant impact on comprehension levels in ESOL learners, particularly when the spoken language may be difficult to understand.
Captions Assist with Information Recall
One of the other benefits of captioning is the way it supports information recall. And it’s proving to work for advertisers, who are gaining an advantage by adding captions to mobile app commercials.
Around 1 in 3 people now turn captions on on their phone when they’re in public settings. And around 50% of consumers surveyed said they needed captions because they often watch videos without sound.
In the same report, advertisers measured an 8% increase in ad recall and a 10% increase in ad memory quality with captions added.
So, by adding captions to instructional learning videos on YouTube, for example, viewer recall gets a marked boost.
Captions Increase Accessibility for Learners with Hearing Loss
Of course, captions are important for the 12,000,000 people in the UK who experience hearing loss.
But a report by UCL suggests the majority of people with hearing loss have had previous exposure to sound and language. And so adding words to a screen would be the most effective approach to include these people in any video broadcasts.
Despite this, the RNID reports that over 85% of people with hearing loss tried to add captions to on-demand programmes but couldn’t. And so there remains a significant gap for those with hearing loss.
Plus, to drive more inclusivity, hearing loss charity StageText set up Captioning Awareness Week. By highlighting the stark reality that most people with hearing loss can’t access museums, galleries or theatre performances, they’re helping to raise more awareness. And, to help them gain access to these learning opportunities, many venues like the RSC employ professional captioners to deliver live captioning on screens.
Captions Support Students to Focus
One more of the benefits of captioning is the way it keeps students on track with their learning.
Studies show there is widespread use of captions among students, at least some of the time. And of course, higher education students have many distractions, making captioning an excellent way to assist when focusing on lectures.
Lecturers speak at around 2-3 words per minute. And so live captioning, including transcriptions, can free up students to spend more time understanding what the lecturer means and not having to take down every word they say.
Adding Captions Benefits Learners from Every Walk of Life
The benefits of captioning are so relevant to today’s landscape. With so many people working or studying at home, adding captioning to learning materials helps everyone.
From improving literacy levels to boosting comprehension, the benefits of captioning reach all of us including English language learners and mobile advertisers.
And while captions reach many corners of society, people with hearing loss still struggle to gain access to some of the learning materials the rest of us enjoy.
To live in a more inclusive society, we urge all institutions to add captioning to their online learning material. And with a free trial of Caption-ed, boosting learning is very easy to do.